Ahem, a lot of the spending cuts are frauds

Via the cool-minded Kevin Drum (I have added no extra indentation, it is Kevin and then the AP, and then Kevin again, not me):

Here’s AP reporter Andrew Taylor digging into the $38 billion in spending cuts that Republicans agreed to and finding that an awful lot of it is smoke and mirrors:

Instead, the cuts that actually will make it into law are far tamer, including […] $2.5 billion from the most recent renewal of highway programs that can’t be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation. Another $3.5 billion comes from unused spending authority from a program providing health care to children of lower-income families.

….The spending measure reaps $350 million by cutting a one-year program enacted in 2009 for dairy farmers then suffering from low milk prices. Another $650 million comes by not repeating a one-time infusion into highway programs passed that same year. And just last Friday, Congress approved Obama’s $1 billion request for high-speed rail grants — crediting themselves with $1.5 billion in savings relative to last year.

About $10 billion of the cuts comes from targeting appropriations accounts previously used by lawmakers for so-called earmarks….Republicans had already engineered a ban on earmarks when taking back the House this year.

Republicans also claimed $5 billion in savings by capping payments from a fund awarding compensation to crime victims. Under an arcane bookkeeping rule — used for years by appropriators — placing a cap on spending from the Justice Department crime victims fund allows lawmakers to claim the entire contents of the fund as budget savings. The savings are awarded year after year.

And this report from CBS News notes two other phantom cuts: $1.7 billion left over from the 2010 census and $2.2 billion in subsidies for health insurance co-ops that are going to be funded anyway via the healthcare reform bill. This stuff alone adds up to $27.4 billion, all of it money that wouldn’t have been spent anyway. I suppose you can argue that some of it might have gotten reallocated if it hadn’t been removed legislatively, but I doubt that the tea party true believers are in a mood to buy that. If these reports are correct, the bill contains only about $11 billion in hard cuts. Basically, it looks as if the tea partiers may have gotten snookered by their own side.


I wish they would stop referring to any of this as cuts. Even if they got the full $60B they were talking about, it is just a reduction in growth. Inflation adjusted spending will still be higher in 2011 with or without this $60B. A cut in spending means less spending than the previous year (could be inflation adjusted).

this is excellent news for those who believe that government *spending* should not go down significantly with unemployment so high.

brings to mind the recent political cartoon featuring a giant buzzard disguised as an eagle, perched on the carcass of the capitol bldg. one wing was red, one was blue. the caption: "vote all you want - the flight plan ain't changing."

helluva choice we got going for us: 'profiles in scumminess', or 'profiles in gutlessness'. USA. USA. USA. rah.

These are the sort of stunts that make politicians lecturing corporation officers on financial probity such an amusing sight.

Time to scuttle the deal.

"it looks as if the tea partiers may have gotten snookered by their own side."

So what?

Any time Tea Partiers get snookered, I'm happy. ;)

Any time Tea Partiers get snookered, I’m happy.

Why? Shorting the dollar?

Progressives are getting snookered by their own side, too, you know. Really, the progressives and the tea party are just two sides of the same coin getting shaved.

People still think the tea party was primarily a punishment for democrats.

When does anyone get snookered by the other side? By definition, you don't trust them.

Punishment? That's funny. Christine O'Donnell is not a punishment (or a witch).

Interesting on Drum's part.

All the Tea Party-ish bloggers I read seem to think the GOP budget is a disgraceful pretense, so they're not being snookered by that.

What's the snookering? They didn't think the GOP majority was magically on their side - they knew it still wasn't, just that they had a little leverage now.

Pretty disappointing to all small-gov't types looking for budget cuts. Your crack about "them" getting snookered indicates you're on ...
the side of bigger spending gov't.

That's pathetic.

There's a reason that Tyler's BFFs include Ezra, Matt and Kevin.

The "snookered" comment isn't from Tyler ; its from Kevin. '
Remember Tyler said : "I have added no extra indentation, it is Kevin and then the AP, and then Kevin again, no me":

No, it doesn't. You can subscribe to false dichotomies, but please keep them inside your own fantasies.

whether or not Tyler agrees doesnt change the fact that the Tea Party did not get the cuts they were demanding. the Republicans, along with the Democrats, created this entire media hoopla and accomplished nothing. even the "courageous" Paul Ryan plan was a joke. outside of Ron and Rand Paul, there is no one in Congress who has interest in cutting spending.

You think Rand Paul is anything but a politician riding the current zeitgeist? Silly. His father is an old man elected from a safe district. He's the right's Dennis Kucinich, and neither one counts in serious debates.

Your statement should read: There is no one in Congress that will risk political capital to seriously cut spending.

That includes Rand Paul, who's political capital is predicated on budget cuts. This whole debate is probably killing his credibility. If he were to get honest about government spending, it'd be political suicide.

"We'll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one's been."

Politics is the art of the possible.

The difference between 39 and 11 in context of trillions is not that meaningful.

It appears the Republicans' strategy is simply to keep the issue on the front burner throughout the year. If they win a lot, they win, If they win a little, they still position the Democrats as tax and spend going into the 12 elections which is still a smart tactic. The Keynesian argument that "we should not cut spending in a recession" has plainly had little resonance among the bloc of voters that determines election outcomes.

If these items weren't really cuts, then the Democrats' opposition to it is telling. Either a) they wanted more deficit spending than they cared to admit openly, b) they were just as naive as some of you claim the Tea Party caucus to be, or c) they were being obstinate simply to be obstinate. If the Republicans are evenly split between tricksters and fools, the Democrats don't exactly look too impressive either.

If these items weren’t really cuts, then the Democrats’ opposition to it is telling

The cuts may have been fake, but the policy riders were real, and that was what the Democrats were most strongly opposed to.

Tyler, I hope you have learned that you cannot use cooperative game theory to analyze political conflicts. Remember to read the Herschel Grossman's papers I recommended a few days ago. And please thank Don Boudreaux for his joke --as I said occasional breaks in conflicts are often a joke.

So when did CBS News learn that these cuts that were described by an esteemed Dem congressman thusly -

"This is probably one of the worst times we’ve seen because the numbers of people elected to Congress. I went through this as co-chair of the arts caucus," Slaughter said. "In ’94 people were elected simply to come here to kill the National Endowment for the Arts. Now they’re here to kill women.”

were just a trick to fool the Tea Partiers?

The Republicans were so fearful of being blamed for a government shutdown. Instead they need to learn what Rush Limbaugh knows - you are going to be vilified no matter what, so you might as well make it worth your while.

If a program that doesn't cost that many dollars saves lives, then someone trying to eliminate it IS going to kill people (in this case women) for insignificant budgetary gain.

The fact that someone is describing a policy proposal in terms that make it sound utterly insane doesn't mean that the description is unfair -- some policy proposals really ARE utterly insane. Especially from the Tea Party, which doesn't know much about policy to begin with.

Another one making the rounds recently has been cuts to the enforcement arm of the IRS -- which are actually a budgetary LOSS because the enforcement arm of the IRS is successful at finding and extracting payments from tax dodgers that exceed the budgets of the investigators. Apparently the Republican Party is so devoted to tax fraud they're willing to make the deficit *worse* in order to let more tax frauds off the hook. Or they just haven't thought it through beyond "IRS! Hate!".

Rich said, "you are going to be vilified no matter what, so you might as well make it worth your while."

I agree completely with this statement, which is why Obama has been so disappointing. He doesn't understand this. He just hopes that by giving away $39 billion in cuts when Republicans only asked for $32b, and by endorsing Simpson-Bowles, and by abandoning the public option and cap-and-trade, the right will suddenly start to like him.

Guess what, Obama? Giving the bully your lunch money just means he's going to come back for more.

This Glenn Reynolds' post is a pointed reply to your comment:
ADAM SERWER AND ELI LAKE ON BLOGGINGHEADS TV: Was The “Progressive Movement” A Mirage? Pretty much, judging from Obama’s actions since he got elected. Or, for that matter, from what’s happening to the Huffington Post. . . . Hey, rube! Can you say “bait and switch?”

You tell him! Damn the voters, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! Fire up the teleprompters and read it like it is! That's what I'm saying!

Anecdotal it may be, but I know several right-leaners who have grown to respect the man. They may not vote for him, but there's a very good chance they won't vote. And yes, I think that is exactly Obama's plan.

Bingo... and the other half of the equation is that Independents who don't typically show up for elections will show up and vote for him.

There is no "own" side, there is only one side--the appropriations party--who work for us very diligently..


Very good point, and I agree completely.

I've tried to guide the debate in this direction on several threads too, but there seems to be much more interest in bickering over the partisan stuff than accepting that both parties really are the same party. So how do we change this mentality?

I’ve tried to guide the debate in this direction on several threads too, but there seems to be much more interest in bickering over the partisan stuff than accepting that both parties really are the same party.

They're too focused on the differences between the parties to see that there are no differences between the parties? You gotta love the irony, at least.

If there is partisan disagreement to "bicker" over, that proves that the parties AREN'T really the same party. Most likely you have this impression because they agree with each other on some issue that you disagree with both of them on, and consider very very important (i.e. worth neglecting all the other issues or sweeping them under the rug). But that doesn't obligate everyone else to agree with you on either (a) which issues are of paramount importance or (b) that the bipartisan-consensus position on those issues is wrong.


Your points are valid. Actually, we're pretty much in agreement, and I apologize for implying that any issues were insignificant or petty, just because they didn't fit my definition of importance. I didn't express it well, but that's not really what I meant. These issues are certainly of paramount importance to many, but my experience has taught me that all the "emotional" ideological debates, solves absolutely nada. No one changes their minds, everyone is pissed off, and for the most part nothing much changes in our everyday lives. They may fire up the faithful, but very few of them become meaningful law that significantly affects a large percentage of the population. The downside is so much time and effort gets devoted to the debate that it relegates the more valuable (in my opinion only) "(b) bipartisan consensus position" opportunities to the background, whether or not those issues are right OR wrong.

My memory isn't that great but I do not remember disagreeing with anything "they agree with each other on" or "some issue that [I] disagree with both of them on", whether or not it's something I "consider very very important". In other words, I'd rather them reach a consensus in the long-term pragmatic best interest of everyone, than get my own way on a personal short-term emotional issue. Why?...Because in the long run I have always ended up better off. Do I know why? Haven't a clue, but somehow I do. When the best minds come up with a good plan, and are able to prevail over all the ideological distractions, everyone ends up better off. That's what "effective" government seems to end up as, regardless of which party is in power.

A lot of Tea Partiers would say "If they're not for fiscal responsibility, they're NOT our own side."

Which is great! The Tea Partiers already seem to get it: they are a very diverse grouping with little real cohesion of ideas. They will splinter apart, as has been predicted for a while now.

Establishment republicans and democrats are not on the side of the real tea party. Establishment republicans are still in control of the republican party...if you believe otherwise then you are the one who has been snookered. It is no surprise that real sending cuts have not taken place. One or two new wars per year = the country going bankrupt. First by inflation, then by deflation the Fed will make americans slaves.

With commodity inflation and labor deflation, you can do both at the same time!

Nice job of Kevin to try to rally his side, which has been grumbling at the President. It's of course just as possible that the Republicans got snookered by the Democrats, or backed down in the negotiations. The Republicans certainly did pass a budget that cut more spending, but it was blocked.

Oh well, certainly in any case this evidence should mean that we should ignore complaints that these spending cuts are historically large, and should increase our willingness to cut more in the future.

Yes, and you have to wonder why this is coming out in lefty circles now. The debt ceiling fight will probably be even more interesting. Will the Republicans try to exact a quid pro quo for an increase in the ceiling? Stay tuned.

It's always great to see the ongoing rape of America by its politicians being framed as "which particular group got snookered today" by the chattering class.

Is it always good to be as hyperbolic as possible? I'd rather you didn't demean rape by comparing any political process to it.

Boehner may already have lost precious credibility with Tea Party types that will be impossible to reclaim. Already there is talk of opposing him for re-election. In fact, the real problem may have to do with shutting down government. Boehner is as scared of that as he is of his own Tea Party caucus apparently. So long as he fears it, it is difficult to see how he can be an effective negotiator.

Here's a thought: We do not actually believe that the political process will provide the necessary curative. Even with the best of intentions, Boehner and others working within the system simply don't have the emotional and intellectual frame-of-reference to do what needs to be done. The Republicans generally won't even touch defense spending, which constitutes half of the federal budget year in and year out.

The Tea Party remains the butt of jokes and contempt from Tyler and the mainstream media, but we would argue that in its various (less tamed) incarnations it is among the most vital forces in American politics today. Portions of the Tea Party have been co-opted, but the larger trends of economic dysfunction and military-industrial authoritarianism that created it – and it is essentially a libertarian invention – will be the ones that will continue to drive it forward. The media frequently tries to play along with the co-opted thrusts of the tea party in order to discredit it as racists, or ignore the anti-war or the anti-fed message.

Defense budget is 19% of FY2010 budget, not 50%.

You are wrong.

'The U.S. Department of Defense budget accounted in fiscal year 2010 for about 19% of the United States federal budgeted expenditures and 28% of estimated tax revenues. Including non-DOD expenditures, defense spending was approximately 28–38% of budgeted expenditures and 42–57% of estimated tax revenues. According to the Congressional Budget Office, defense spending grew 9% annually on average from fiscal year 2000–2009.[24]' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States

These expenditures do not include intelligence agencies, NSA, Veterans Affairs, parts of NASA, parts of Department of Energy, etc.

Gabe said "half the federal budget."

Rich said, "Defense budget is 19%"

You said "42-57% of TAX REVENUES".

You changed the denominator. Rich is correct. You are wrong.

Defense is a public good. It should be provided by government and paid for by taxes. Welfare, social security, medicaid, medicare and thousands of other programs are NOT public goods.

True, but it also shouldn't be godawful wasteful even while sucking. It is so expensive because we are doing it wrong. We are doing it wrong because people confuse support for the idea of defense with the reality of it.

Actually, Rich is even more wrong depending on how you define the federal budget. If you take out highway trust fund (fund dedicated to roads), social security (which is supposed to be deducated and which has run a surplus for, I believe, 38 out of the last 40 years) you would see defense is even MORE as a percent of total taxes.

Its a public good in the sense that we scare people into believing there is a boogy man in the closet and that we need to spend that much.

Why is the rest of the world spending less?

Our problem as a country is that we never, after world war II, never entirely moved off a war time economy. You could sell conservatives, particularly in California defense industry, and the South (Tex, Fla, Ala, Ga, SC) which became militarily dependent that this was GOOD government spending. Of course it was for them. Good sweet teet to suck on.

Not true. Welfare is, by definition, a public good. Call it something else if you want to be taken seriously.

Also, if you want an intelligent debate with your opponents, it's generally best to assume good faith. With millions in support of the programs you decry as "NOT public goods" you are closing the debate off. That is exactly what my state congress has been doing, which is absolutely nothing. I can't say the federal government has done much better, though I confess I haven't followed it that closely.

I would ordinarily advise someone like Bill to stop digging, but I can't. It's too much fun. It can't be too long before you prove (at least to your own satisfaction) that black is white, yes is no and up is down.

defense is a public good terrorist recruitment is not..and that is what the militayr is engaged in.

Oh, and Mike, here are some of those items not included in the DOD budget (see the Wiki link above)

Budget Breakdown for 2012Defense-related expenditure 2012 Budget request & Mandatory spending[18][19] Calculation[20][21]
DOD spending $707.5 billion Base budget + "Overseas Contingency Operations"
FBI counter-terrorism $2.7 billion At least one-third FBI budget.
International Affairs $5.6–$63.0 billion At minimum, foreign arms sales. At most, entire State budget
Energy Department, defense-related $21.8 billion
Veterans Affairs $70.0 billion
Homeland Security $46.9 billion
NASA, satellites $3.5–$8.7 billion Between 20% and 50% of NASA's total budget
Veterans pensions $54.6 billion
Other defense-related mandatory spending $8.2 billion
Interest on debt incurred in past wars $109.1–$431.5 billion Between 23% and 91% of total interest
Total Spending

lots of labeling tricks...Veterans affairs and NSA is not military? special bills for the different wars...quit the con job dude.

Mark is correct. Republicans cannot enact true cuts as long as they control only 1/3 of lawmaking capacity and only slightly more than that in political capital. Their best bet is to keep highlighting the projected debt and deficit, Obama's piddly contribution and lack of commitment, and their own lofty goals. Once they have control back, they can enact real cuts to wasteful spending. Then, and only then, do we need to hold their feet to the fire.

Saying these cuts are fraudulent is absurd. The unspent money for the Census WOULD HAVE BEEN SPENT but for Republican opposition. When Republican governors turned down pork, democrats jumped up and said, "give me their money."

Don't confuse the government budgeting process with normal rules of accounting, economics, and finance. Once money is allocated to a purpose, it can easily be repurposed if the program is "cut." Program cut, budget not cut. These cuts saved REAL taxpayer dollars.

Liberals won't be happy with any cuts. Conservatives won't be happy without more cuts. And libertarians won't ever be happy.

Just getting Obama to change his game plan is worth the price of admission.

"the unspent money for the Census WOULD HAVE BEEN SPENT but for Republican opposition."

Which explains why the Democrats howled so loudly about these supposedly fraudulent cuts.

This is hardly surprising- there was never an agreement to be had without faking it. The real test is the coming budget for 2012. I expect continuing resolutions all year long.

Dan Dostal wrote:

Not true. Welfare is, by definition, a public good. Call it something else if you want to be taken seriously.

No, it isn't a public good. Welfare isn't a bottomless pot. Someone doesn't get it specifically because someone else did. It is rival and excludable.

Why isn't military spending a bottomless pit as well?
There is always something you need to defend yourself against.

Republicans also claimed $5 billion in savings by capping payments from a fund awarding compensation to crime victims. Under an arcane bookkeeping rule — used for years by appropriators — placing a cap on spending from the Justice Department crime victims fund allows lawmakers to claim the entire contents of the fund as budget savings. The savings are awarded year after year.

Why don't we get rid of the language of cuts and talk about total debt. the Govt should have a goal to be 10 Trilllion in debt by 2020 and 5 by 2025. These cuts are a joke. Both sides are in on it.

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